I am delighted to be speaking in the panel session: Is anaerobic digestion the future to a bio-based economy? in the EFW Theatre on Tuesday 13th September 15:15 – 16:00 at RWM (13-15 September, NEC Birmingham)
In the face of increasing policy uncertainty, the anaerobic digestion industry’s growth has been impressive. ADBA’s latest Market Report, launched at UK AD & Biogas 2016, showed that the sector now generates enough biogas to power the equivalent of 800,000 homes. The capacity of the sector has more than quadrupled over the past five years, and there are hundreds more plants in planning.
The development of those projects relies heavily on the attitude of government. Renewable energy policy has been the key driver for the growth in AD – and food waste projects rely on recycling policy too. Both have been uncertain, but a new RHI budget confirmed last year will give at least some developers the support they need once details are confirmed this autumn. Although food waste policy in England remains behind that of the devolved administrations, Defra’s collection consistency work offers some cause for optimism – ADBA has represented the AD industry on the steering group and made a strong case for the importance of food waste collections.
If the government gets these policies right, the potential for growth remains strong. WRAP estimates 10m tonnes of post-farm gate food waste is produced every year, though some of that cannot be captured and more work is needed on reduction and redistribution. Taking into account the potential on farms too, ADBA estimates the industry could quadruple in size using existing technology – and double that again through the use of new feedstocks and technology. In doing so, the UK will continue to develop technology and skills to export to the world. To realise that opportunity, BEIS needs to restore a viable incentive for biogas electricity plants, and Defra needs to develop sustainable farming policy which helps agricultural businesses adopt the technology, particularly for lower value farm wastes.
Whatever future growth looks like, the AD industry in the UK is well placed to be in the vanguard for developing a bio-based economy. Our operating base provides opportunities to invest in new technology to make higher value products, and our academic research is world-leading. AD remains an exciting industry with huge potential for new investment and developments.
I look forward to seeing many of you there for a stimulating discussion and hope you will visit us at the ADBA stand 4A41.